The purpose of studying literature is to help shape you as a human being - to expose you to psychological truths, to models of virtue and vice, to archetypal life challenges, to grand-scale ideas - and thereby to help you become more thoughtful, observant, wise and a deeply value-oriented human being.
At Read With Me, we believe literature can be accessible to anyone and that doing so will help you live a more spiritually fulfilling life.
We know great works of art can be intimidating. We also know that getting somewhere great starts with one small action. Our mission is to create the structure and tools that will help you take the first step towards making great literature part of your life.
My name is Lisa VanDamme and I am the founder of VanDamme Academy, a small private school in Southern California with big ambitions to provide students with an exceptional education and a joyful learning experience.
The single, animating element of my career – the one that provides me with an endlessly replenishing daily dose of endorphins – is teaching literature. I am not a literary scholar. I cannot classify works by “school” or “movement,” I cannot describe how they reflect the historical period in which they were written, I don’t know how to inventory their various literary devices. And I don’t care to.
If I have a unique talent as a teacher of literature, it boils down to this: I am passionate about great books. Hugo wrenches my heart and makes me weep tears of anguish and of wonderment. Rostand stirs me to noble ambition in work and love and life. Tolstoy challenges me to think – and to feel – on planes higher than I had ever known. Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Balzac, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Rattigan, Sinclair Lewis – all have helped me to see, in the words of English professor Mark Edmundson, “that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than I had thought.” I derive profound personal joy from literature, and I have a knack for helping others do the same.
That is why I started Read With Me. I know so many people – thoughtful, intelligent, motivated people – who avoid reading the classics. And for understandable reasons: they’re busy, they don’t know what to read, they’ve never been taught how to enjoy it, they have unpleasant memories of tedious discussions in high school English…
If you are intimidated, uninitiated, jaded, disillusioned or just plain busy – read with me. Let me show you what reading can be.
Make exciting and meaningful works of literature part of your life